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Placido Domingo & his tenor of greatness

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

By daring last year to make the 20th recording of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, Placido Domingo created an atmosphere of expectation. That’s because he’s a leader in everything he’s done.

Aside from being one of the world’s top tenors, Domingo also works as general director of both the Los Angeles and Washington operas and has taken on extra gigs as a conductor. Some clues to his leadership:
  • He’s ambitious. Tristan is his first complete singing of what may be the most demanding role for tenors … and this at the culmination of a 40-year career. Its score is long, hard and unpredictable, laden with traps and emotional extremes, and Domingo went for broke.

  • He knows his limits. Since the logical question is why he waited so long to record Tristan, Domingo explains that he secretly wanted to but feared that if he tackled the whole thing live, he’d flub it and hurt his career. The chance to record in a studio let him spread the work over nearly six weeks.

  • He bides his time. At least a decade ago, the president of EMI Classics impulsively promised Domingo they’d record Tristan someday. Two years ago, the tenor said he was ready.

  • He’s not a prima donna. Domingo is one of the hardest-working people in opera, and he’s easy-going. His conductor in Tristan, Antonio Pappano, calls him a great collaborator who’s open to suggestion. In fact, the conductor says he’s able to point out problems in front of the orchestra without ruffling Domingo—“a tremendous luxury, I can tell you.”

  • He’s satisfied ... for the moment. Domingo is happy to be done with what may be one of the last big-budget, star-studded opera recordings. It’s a lifetime’s ambition and a weight off his shoulders, he says, but then adds a deeper satisfaction and a touch of bravado: “It is perhaps the greatest work ever written in opera, you know.”
— Adapted from “Great Expectations,” Erica Jeal, The Grammophone.

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